The Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d long-term review – quick questions.

After the first update on our long-term test with the Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d, we’ve had a few questions. To answer what readers want to know and expand on some of our initial thoughts, we’ve listed them below (and will update you with any further questions here).

Jump to: A prestige SUV from Mercedes-Benz joins our fleet. Can the GLE 400d prove itself more than just a Toorak tractor?

Where does the GLE 400d sit in the range and how is it for value?

The most affordable GLE is a diesel, but it’s the smaller-engined 300d. This gets a four-cylinder engine with a 2.0-litre capacity; the 400d has a six-cylinder engine and a larger 2.9-litre capacity. This brings a slight increase in fuel consumption but benefits power and acceleration, towing performance, and also refinement (more below).

Looking at the Mercedes-Benz GLE range, the 400d sits in the middle price-wise, although it’s a good deal sharper than the AMG versions which bring a significant step up in performance.

GLE 300d 4cyl 2.0L turbo diesel – $120,500

GLE 450 6cyl 3.0L turbo petrol – $135,200

GLE 400d 6cyl 2.9L turbo diesel – $143,200

GLE 53 AMG 4MATIC 3.0L 6cyl turbo petrol – $192,300

GLE 63 AMG 4MATIC 4.0L V8 turbo petrol – $259,500

How much bigger than the GLC is the GLE? Are they similar?

The fourth-generation model GLE driven here was developed a new from the ground up on Mercedes’s MHA (modular high architecture) platform. While that platform will sit underneath the upcoming GLC, the current-generation GLC is on the older MRA architecture. Besides technical differences underneath, the GLE itself is larger in about every aspect – as one should expect.

For families, both GLC and GLE offer good-size SUVs with big boots and ample interior space for adults and large kids. In real life, both will be a good fit – although there are reasons the GLE might be better suited (or the GLC might be – it’s more affordable, a good size for many, and still well-equipped).

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Looking at technical specifications, the GLE is 179mm longer (almost 20cm), and some of this added length is in the wheelbase that’s 62mm longer. When you think about it, 6cm is a lot of extra knee room for the rear seat to the front seats, which is where the added length is felt. This makes the GLE great for not only big kids but adults who can stretch out in the second row. Looking at the width, the GLE is 84mm wider, or about 8cm – so the shoulder room is pretty airy.

In the boot, there’s another jump up in space for the GLE with its 630-litres above the GLC’s 550L, although the number don’t lie and the GLC does have a good-size boot that will take a set of golf clubs easily.

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Where the difference swings the other way might surprise as the GLC’s turning circle comes in at 12.1 metres, while the bigger GLE as actually a touch sharper at 12.02m. Indeed, during our time driving the GLE so far it slips into urban life quite well, and getting to know its bluff proportions from behind the wheel for reversing and negotiating tight roads feels natural. Although it has all of the technology that helps – parking sensors, 360-degree cameras, and a parking assistant.

Does the GLE have five or seven seats?

You can option a third row of seating (7 Seat Package – $3900 – or in the AMG Night Edition pack at $16,299), which takes the total seats from 5 to 7 in a conventional layout.

You’re unlikely to feel uncomfortable and cramped in the GLE, as there’s plenty of space in the first two rows of seats. Front seat passengers can stretch out in limo-like comfort, while there are similar levels of legroom in the second row.

Mercedes GLE itnerior seats 1

Access to the rear seats is via the electric folding middle seat and that’s not as fast as a manual lever that requires some muscle. The benefit is anyone from a younger kid to a grandparent can move the seat forward while you get the bags. Once there, the space is suitable for children and early teens – anyone taller won’t thank you for spending a prolonged period in the back.

In fairness, this is no different to many of the 5+2-seat large SUVs on the market.

Mercedes GLE itnerior seats 2

When is the new Mercedes-Benz GLE coming out?

Well, this fourth-generation GLE launched in 2019 and we’re not near the release of a new generation. However, there is a facelifted version on route to Australia which is expected to launch in August this year. But with pricing to be announced, we’d expect (as is fashion with upgraded models) the new price will be a touch higher.

The facelifted GLE for 2023 receives the usual subtle design changes that keep it looking ever-familiar to this model here. It gains tweaked engines in the same line-up as now, available with petrol or diesel power – all of which now have some form of electrification.

Updates include an updated Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) operating system with over-the-air software update functionality and new driver assistance systems. Given they are all up to date with the best tech in this class, don’t expect a revolution in this department as opposed to an evolution.

GLE – what’s in the name?

We already alluded in our introduction that the GLE effectively replaced the ML, itself a contender to replace the G-Class (the most capable 4×4 Mercedes built in mass production, and one of the most capable 4x4s on a showroom floor full stop).

But what does GLE specifically mean? The ‘G’ is retained from Mercedes’s four-wheel drive roots with the G-Wagon, and is German for Gelandenwagen. That translates to English as ‘off-road vehicle’.

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The GLE is obviously not a focused 4×4 like the G-Wagon however, and thus the L is introduced for Luxury. The E is aligned to the sedan and wagon versions of the E Class Executive range. The same logic applies to the GLA, GLB, GLC, and GLS.

Is the GLE quiet when driving?

The GLE 400d has a six-pot engine that really is incredibly refined for a diesel. It’s quiet and smooth, barely raising much audible protest even when you make it work a bit, and the truth is that it gives this car every bit of the outright potency and drivability that it needs.

More than fast enough for a car of this type, but it also has great mid-range grunt and bags of flexibility. It’s aided by the unobtrusive nine-speed automatic transmission; occasionally it holds on to ratios for a fraction too long, but its changes are super-smooth. The torque on offer means it crucially doesn’t aggressively kick down at the slightest touch of the accelerator, which makes for relaxing progress.

Is the Mercedes GLE a 4×4?

The fourth-gen GLE debuted at the 2018 Paris Motor Show where it showed off its electronic active body control (E-ABC) system with ‘Free Ride Assistant’ that could hop and bounce the car out of sandy or boggy situations. It was a novel way of using air suspension and hydraulic damping with individual wheel control to crawl out of sticky situations off-road.

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However, you’re unlikely to ever see a GLE in that sort of situation. Not that it doesn’t have some off-road performance – something we haven’t tested beyond light sand and national park tracks. There is the option (overseas) for the Off-Road Engineering Package, which in the upcoming facelift has been simplified to bring underbody protection and an extra 30mm of ground clearance when paired with air suspension, but most owners wouldn’t want bush pinstripes and torn bumpers on their six-figure Benz.

However, leaning on its capable chassis, there’s the Towbar Package ($2900) which has a tow bar and electronic trailer sway control and brings the rated braked towing capacity to 3500kg (with a 280kg downball weight, more below).

A prestige SUV from Mercedes-Benz joins our fleet. Can the GLE 400d prove itself more than just a Toorak tractor?

Mercedes GLE 400d grey 1

The Mercedes-Benz GLE can trace its history back to 1997 when the original M-Class made its debut, and at the time Mercedes had even considered it as a replacement for the G-Class…Which would have missed the point entirely.

The GLE name was introduced almost ten years later, replacing the ML badge and the model now sits between the GLC and GLS. And it’s a size-perfect option for small to large families.

I sit in the former, with two young boys – one in primary school and the other an ambitious toddler. So the option to long-term test this seven-seater is ideal and not just because of its flexible interior space (all the seats can slide for changing legroom, and the third row seats pop in and out quickly).

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I’m on the move as it happens, heading away from Melbourne suburbia and into the country of Gippsland, east of the city. Fortunately, this 400d comes with a tow kit and a torquey yet frugal 2.9-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine. Its mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission that handles 700Nm of torque and 243kW of power at all four wheels. That’s plenty for light to medium towing, which I’ve been doing, and also gives great economy considering the SUV’s large stature.

First impressions, beyond the dazzling tech and premium appointments a buyer should expect from a Mercedes-Benz, is that it’s a good tow vehicle too; an ideal choice for those looking for something that can easily haul a camper while remaining civil around town.

There’s a maximum 2700kg braked towing capacity as standard (216kg downball limit), which can be upgraded to 3500kg braked towing (280 downball limit) with the TB1 Towbar Package. So far I’ve had a loaded tandem and smaller box trailer behind me, and I wouldn’t think twice about taking something like a pop-top camper of around two tonnes for a long trip…that might be one to test later.

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The fuel economy is positive too. This diesel drinker claims it will consume 7.7L/100km on the government-mandated combined cycle figure, yet cruising on the highway I’ve had that figure regularly under 7L/100km, and that’s with two kids and two adults in the cabin. Towing, it’ll creep up, but it’s certainly an efficient engine and it has plenty of shove when required for overtaking, and the standing start to 100km/h is dispatched in under 6.0 seconds – more than enough for an SUV of this nature.

This is every inch the modern Mercedes, with the latest tech on board that adds to the luxury feel expected when stepping up to the E Class. With a list price of $143,200, you’d expect the GLE 400d to be well equipped, and it is – but that’s not always the case with such cars. The twin 12.3-inch screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, huge colour head-up display, powered tailgate, 360-degree parking camera, artico leatherette upholstery with heated seats, LED lighting with adaptive high beam headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a choice of 64 light colours to bathe the interior in are all standard.

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Safety is expectedly well catered for with AEB, lane departure warning with active lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, front and rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and semi-autonomous parking.

But wait, there’s more. Options fitted here include a panoramic sunroof, 13-speaker 590W Burmester sound system, power-adjsutable rear seats, also the third-row of seating which takes it from five to seven seats. There all seem worthy additions. This particular model is finished in Selenite Grey, one of eight different paint colour buyers can choose from.

In the first few weeks of GLE ownership, there are a few things that stand out. The interior is well-built and looks fantastic, and the screens’ graphics are super crisp and easy to use – text is big enough that grandma can read them. The Mercedes way of implementing a sort of AI into the infotainment, called MBUX, quickly becomes the default when wanting to do something quickly, like bring up the map or closing the sunroof. “Hey, Mercedes, show me the map.” Motoring journalists often complain about having to exclusively use touchscreens for things like temperature control in some modern cars (and the GLE is not one of them, it has a real knurled metallic roller), but the efficiency and speed of MBUX is quite outstanding compared to some clunky voice ‘assistants’. I.e, it simply works.

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I’ll also note the ambient lighting has been a fun element, especially at night when you can play with the colour schemes that the kids love to see. It’s also doing everyday stuff well. It’s a gentle companion when commuting and the whole family has taken a few long (over 300km non-stop) journeys already with no complaints about space or ride comfort. In fact, the little tacker takes to sleeping on the ride quicker than other cars (somewhat of a litmus test to ride comfort I have found).

For the fitter members of the family, climbing up into the cabin is no problem, and it wouldn’t be a chore for older ones. At 11765mm high, the GLE isn’t a hulking behemoth like, say, the G-Wagen. But it does get plenty of compliments in the looks department…to the point the neighbour has been quite taken by it without even sitting in it yet.


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Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax,, AMC, Just Cars, and more.

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